Wednesday, December 12, 2018

"At a Window" by Carl Sandburg

A painting of a scene at night with 10 swirly stars, Venus, and a bright yellow crescent Moon. In the background there are hills, in the middle ground there is a moonlit town with a church that has an elongated steeple, and in the foreground there is the dark green silhouette of a cypress tree and houses.
"The Starry Night" Vincent Van Gogh 1889

Give me hunger,
O you gods that sit and give
The world its orders.
Give me hunger, pain and want,
Shut me out with shame and failure
From your doors of gold and fame,
Give me your shabbiest, weariest hunger!

But leave me a little love,
A voice to speak to me in the day end,
A hand to touch me in the dark room
Breaking the long loneliness.
In the dusk of day-shapes
Blurring the sunset,
One little wandering, western star
Thrust out from the changing shores of shadow.
Let me go to the window,
Watch there the day-shapes of dusk
And wait and know the coming
Of a little love.

Monday, December 10, 2018

Sandhills

The temperature was at a comfortable 39 degrees when I parked at Clear Creek. As soon as I stepped out of the truck I heard the unmistakable cries of Sandhill cranes. A late Fall treat.


The creek was down to normal levels and the water was almost crystal clear.


I tied on the fly that brought me a little smallie last week and went to work.


The Sandhills filled the skies, keeping me looking up when I should have been looking down. I lost the fly in a tree after a backcast that came close to snagging a crane.


I lost another fly when I cast right up against the far bank--which I was trying to do--and then let the fly sink into the rocks and get hopelessly hung up. But I was enjoying the company of the Sandhills.


I made three passes again but didn't get a bump. I headed back to the truck.


I wasn't the coldest I've ever been, but it felt good to crank up the heater as I pulled out and aimed for home.


I turned around a bend and there was a beautiful sunset. It was short lived, but as it faded the tiny crescent moon became visible as it set into the trees.


This was a trip in which the sky outdid the river.

Saturday, December 8, 2018

The Henry's Fork: The Last Day

It always comes down to this: the last day. We have packed up the car and locked up the cabin by the time we get to the river. It's another chilly morning and there is snow on the mountains.


At the grassy bank multiple rises bubble up like a spring. I think there might be good fish mixed in the pod. I actually try a couple of little trico and pmd flies, but it's a cinnamon ant that brings me a hookup. The fish is small but mighty, a jewel of the Fork. It will be my last fish of the trip.


The wind begins to whip. John is already downstream at the sheltered bend. He has caught some fish by the time I join him. I forget how many or how big. Just more than me and bigger than mine.


There are still some rises over close to the far bank and John shows me where he moved a good fish along a weed mat there. I have high hopes. I wade out. The farther I go the deeper it gets. The bottom is mucky. Each step I take I have to yank my boot out of its grip. I get close enough to the far bank to make some casts. They're good casts, tickling along the edges of the weed mats and the blow downs. On a different trip, with my mojo working, they might have brought me the fish of the trip. Not this time. I slowly, carefully wade out. I get safely to the bank and it feels like the achievement of the trip.


John continues to wade around. I get the feeling he forgot to tell me where the stepping stones are. The fact is he's a few years younger than I am and still has some spryness left. He doesn't catch anything more but he has still outfished me for the morning. And for the trip. Nice work, John.


We eke out a little more time on the bank looking for more rises, but all too soon it's time to go.


We load up and hit the road.


We pass right by Bitch Creek. We stop as we have done in years past and debate whether it would be worth the hike to give it a try.


We know we'll also pass right by the Teton again so we decide to pass up the Bitch and hit the Teton one more time.


The river's namesake peaks are clearly seen today. We quickly gear up and wade in.


We only have an hour or so. It seems like plenty of time but it passes quickly and neither of us catch a fish. Rivers share the performer's credo: always leave them wanting more. We load up and head over Teton Pass.


At Jackson we turn right and make our way south toward I 80.


At sunset we're deep in the heart of Wyoming. As the sage brush flows by we're remembering the flow of the Fork that filled our eyes and hearts for the last ten days; and we're dreaming about the next time we will be able to immerse ourselves in its healing waters.


Monday, December 3, 2018

Looking Forward to Winter

The temp was spiking in the upper fifties. Pretty good for December. So I decided to go to Sugar Creek, but when I checked stream flows online I discovered it was running very high and fast. My next best option was closer to home: Clear Creek.


Clear Creek was also high and fast but I knew I could access a good stretch without having to wade deep.


I hiked upstream to the old railroad abutments. The water was almost all the way to the treeline but it was only ankle deep.


I've had good fortune on this stretch, catching two of my best smallmouths here on successive casts. I was eager to get a fly into that deep flow.


I was able to get the fly close to the far bank, but the high water limited the room necessary for a real long cast. But then I got a bump just where the swing straightened out and the river narrowed. No hookup.


I fished on down past the many leaf stacks left by the high water.


At the farthest place downstream that I could make a good cast I turned around and went back upstream. I changed flies from a dark streamer to a white streamer and started downstream again.


At the spot where I had gotten some bumps I slowed down and did my best to cover the water well. I made several swings. Finally, on a slow strip, I felt a take. It was a fat little smallie, a bright spot in the drab day.


I especially enjoyed its eye, glowing like an ember.


I made more casts there, wondering if he was schooled up. If he was, he was the only fish willing to hit a fly. I fished on downstream, turned and made one more pass with a third fly, but the catching was over.


Everything went so well on this trip that I made an early resolution: to get to Clear Creek at least once a week all through the winter. I'm looking forward to it.

Sunday, December 2, 2018

The Henry's Fork: Day Nine

The ninth day on the Fork dawns cloudy and chilly. We wade out knowing that our precious time here is winding down. One tries not to dawdle but also not to rush. The swans arc into the swaddled sun; they get to stay longer than we do.


The clouds move on but the wind that moves them is here to stay.


We go back and forth between the banks and the tried and true fishy spots. John catches more than I do. Again. We're both a bit frustrated, me because I have caught precious few fish at all, he because he keeps catching them in the 16 to 18 inch range.


Both of us are hoping to find a fish in the 20 inch range, me because it would redeem the trip and give me the "biggest fish of the trip" laurel, he because, well, he's tired of all those 18 inchers he's been reeling in. Oh, and that "let the best man win" nonsense? It's an anticlimax; he was clearly the best man by day three.


John once again heads back to the cabin at mid-afternoon to spend time with his son. He'll pick me up at dark. I haunt the river. I notice that I've been fishing a cinnamon ant all day. I don't change it. I still have unshakeable confidence in it. It will bring me my big catch if anything will.


As the sun sinks in the west I hike downstream to a broad and slow bend that's somewhat sheltered from the persistent wind. I find a comfortable spot on the bank and wait for something to happen. This is my last evening here. This is my last chance to find that low light fish of the trip.


Fish begin to rise out in mid-channel. Then one begins to dine fairly close to the bank. I slip quietly into the water.


I get a good float with the ant and the fish sips it in. It's a good fish. I play it carefully. The tippet breaks. The fish takes the ant and most of my hope.


I tie on another ant. I wade out farther and manage another hookup, also a good fish, but it comes undone. Then the fish go down and the dusk thickens around me. That could be the ball game. We'll see what the morning might bring.

SCALE, No. 31


Over HERE.

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

"Song for the Woolly Mammoth" by Lauren Moseley

Related image
Beth Zaiken, New York State Museum

                    When glaciers trapped a third of Earth’s water and drained the Bering
                         Strait, humans
                     journeyed to this land where wind swept the steppes of snow, exposing
                         grass

                    that would be plucked by mammoth trunks and ground by washboard
                         teeth.
                    Up to thirteen feet, their tusks curved helically and would intertwine
                         if they went on

                    a little longer. The beasts’ dense hair—brown, blonde, or ginger—
                         swung like a skirt
                    about their flanks. I want to rest my head against that shaggy coat, to
                         crane

                    my ears, to be protected from the giant short-faced bear. I want to be
                    their baby, wrap my trunk around my mother’s, watch the wild horses of 
                         Beringia

                    canter across the steppes in tawny, fine-boned movements. The thick
                         fat
                    under my hair keeps me warm when the sun goes low, and I grow into

                    an eight-ton bull, pierce the ice with my tusks and drink from glacial
                         pools.
                    The wind is bitter, but my strongest features have grown bigger than
                         my father’s.

                    When summer comes I must find a mate, and it only takes a few tusk
                         locks to show
                    my strength. After our calf is born, I see upright creatures eyeing him
                         from the mesa.

                    I will fling them against the icy mountains. They wear our hair as if it
                         were
                    their skin. Still, I will live through many winters, through each warm
                         season’s

                    hardheaded matches. I know the range that slopes like the hump on
                         my back, sunsets
                    redder than the long-toothed cat’s gorging mouth, how musk oxen
                         form a wall of horns

                    and still fall prey to the blade thrown. I know how many herds have
                         fled, and the curves
                    of carcasses stripped to bone by men, wind, and time. I do not know
                         that I am gone.

Local Wildlife

Half of a frantic game of tag wondering where the other half went.


Red-bellied sunbath on a 31 degree day.